Another Kind of Bipartisanship

When groups of legislators from both parties come together in agreement on a particular piece of legislation, we have a word for that: bipartisanship. But what if their agreement is that the legislation be defeated? And what if they come not from the moderate wings of each part but from the extremes? That’s a bipartisanship of a different color.

We’ve seen this other kind of bipartisanship come into play at two pivotal moments in recent months. The first time was the debt ceiling crisis of late July/early August. It emerged again this last week, creating an impasse on the latest stopgap budget bill. Each instance unfolded similarly. First, House Speaker John Boehner proposed a bill. It was defeated by a coalition of House Democrats and the most fiscally conservative House Republicans. In each case, Boehner was forced to go back to the drawing board to craft a bill that would appeal to more Republicans.

It appears that President Obama may be getting his wish after all. We are seeing a new bipartisanship emerge in Washington. Unfortunately, its a bipartisanship of ‘No.’ It is born of the extremes rather than the center. It is less trustful of government, not more. It is more pessimistic, obstructionist, and dangerous than the partisan gridlock we had in the past. When Democrats and Republicans are willing to unite in pushing our government to the brink of shutdown over a dispute involving 0.04% of the annual budget, we’re in real trouble. Here’s to hoping that Boehner, Reid, and Obama can find a way out of this latest bipartisan hole.

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